South African Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) Senzeni Zokwana says nine pesticides have now been registered by the government to spray against the Fall Armyworm.

The Minister who recently visited maize-growing farms in the Waterberg district of the northern province of Limpopo, said Monday that local scientists were working tirelessly to determine the worm’s biological make-up.

“We have been able to do our research. We know what we are dealing with. With the registered pesticides we know which ones can work on it and they have been registered,” she said.

“We are asking farmers to be vigilant, we are working on a programme which includes finding funding what will be utilised so that people who have got this worm don’t stand alone and can fight it.”

Meanwhile, experts have warned that a combination of native African armyworms and Fall armyworms from the Americas are ravaging staple crops across southern Africa. If uncontrolled, they have the potential to cause major food shortages.

The current began in mid-December 2016 in Zambia and has spread rapidly ever since. It is now as far south as South Africa. Because armyworms feed on many of the staple food crops they have the potential to create food shortages in the region.

The recent outbreaks in southern Africa appear to be a combination of the native African armyworm (Spodoptera exempta) and a new invasive species called the Fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda). This new species is endemic to tropical and subtropical regions of Central and South America, where it causes considerable damage to maize and other crops.

The Fall armyworm was first formally identified as being on the continent as recently as January 2016 in West Africa, including Nigeria and its neighbours.

It is unclear how it reached Africa from the Americas but it’s likely it arrived on imported plants. It’s also possible that it migrated across the Atlantic on favourable winds over multiple generations.